Thursday, November 5, 2009

As the SEC turns

It's funny that this story came from a Utah paper, and not a SEC related one.

There was a time when the SEC was best known for its fierce rushing attacks and stout defenses. Now it seems the league is creating as much drama as it is wins.

First we had Tennessee's Lane Kiffin joining the league and promptly upsetting virtually ever coach around him with his verbal jabs and recruiting ways. Then God -- I mean Tim Tebow -- got a concussion, which generated so much discussion and replays you would have thought he was the first player to ever get knocked cross-eyed.

Cross-eyed, apparently, was the referee crew for the Georgia-LSU game, which made a horrible call on Georgia for celebrating that may have played a part in the Tigers' win. The crew was verbally chastised by the league office, but allowed to keep officiating. That was a mistake, we all learned, when the same crew made a similar bad call late in the Florida-Arkansas game.

That error was enough to get them suspended until Nov. 14.

The latest controversy occurred in Jacksonville, where CBS replays clearly show Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes attempting to jam his fingers into the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey as he was pinned on the bottom of a pile.

Urban Meyer suspended Spikes for the first half of Saturday's game against Vanderbilt as punishment -- then upgraded the penalty Wednesday to the entire game -- but really, isn't that kind of a reward to not have to play against the hapless Commodores?

Perhaps not to be outdone, Meyer sent the SEC office tape of a play in which he said the officials missed a late hit on Tebow in the Gators' win.

Farther north, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, a guy accustomed to causing drama with his mouth, came across as rather paranoid when he accused Alabama of using tape to spot its extra points and field goals in Alabama's 20-6 win over the Gamecocks.

One would think he'd be more worried about his offense than post-it notes after that result.

In an effort to control all the yapping going on, the league office strengthened its discipline policies for coaches who criticize officials, making the punishment either a fine or suspension because it has had to dole out so many reprimands this season.

Hopefully it will be enough to get things to simmer down, because the league is playing very good ball, even if you haven't noticed all the extraneous activities.

Florida is secure in the No. 1 spot in the BCS standings, while Alabama is third and LSU is ninth. All three teams are in the top 10 nationally in scoring defenses as well.

Two of those will share the same field Saturday when Alabama takes on LSU.

Oh, sure, there will be the usual sideline drama, since Tide coach Nick Saban went from being the most loved guy at LSU to the most hated when he left, but here is hoping most of the fireworks will occur on the field.

Alabama lost ground in some polls last week when it was on a bye while Oregon was pounding USC and Texas was taking it to Oklahoma State, but the Tide get a chance to impress Saturday against their division rival.

An Alabama win would secure the Tide a spot in the SEC title game, where they would get a rematch with Florida. An LSU win would give the Tigers control of the SEC West.

Last season, Alabama ended a five-game losing streak to the Tigers by winning 27-21 in overtime. This season, Alabama's defense is fifth nationally, holding teams to 11.4 points a game. LSU is ranked just two spots lower with a defense allowing 12.1 points.

Offensively, the player to watch is Alabama running back Mark Ingram, a Heisman candidate who is averaging 6.6 yards a carry and 125.5 yards a game.

This is his best opportunity to show he is a player worthy of striking the pose.

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